Israeli government sources say the Pope spoke to President Shimon Peres in a meeting between Jews, Christians and Muslims, aimed at speaking out against violence. Rabbi Rosen has asked for steps to be taken to bring peace to the Holy Land
Israeli government sources claim Francis is apparently thinking of calling a meeting between leaders and faithful of the world’s three biggest monotheistic religions, in Rome, to launch a message of peace, countering violence and the use of God’s name to justify hatred and terrorist acts. The sources say the Pope announced his intention to call a meeting, during an Audience last 30 April. But there was no mention of this in the communiqué the Holy See’s issued after the Audience.
President Peres “told the Pope that there are people who use God’s name to justify terrorism” and religious leaders should “say out loud that God did not give anyone permission to kill their neighbour.” According to the information contained in a summary of the Audience received by the Israeli government, Francis told Peres he “whole-heartedly supported” his appeal against violence and that “he wanted to promote a meeting between religious leaders and faithful of the three major religions” founded by Abraham, “in Rome”. The aim would be to “make people see” that the religions “oppose violence and terrorism.”
If these statements were indeed made during the Audience, it looks like the Pope is thinking about possible peace initiatives that would be restricted to the world’s three major monotheistic faiths. It would not be an interreligious meeting involving all faiths, like the Assisi gatherings organised by John Paul II and then by Benedict XVI in 2011. Readers will remember that in January 2002, just a few months after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., Pope John Paul II convened a special meeting of religions in Assisi, in order to make it crystal clear that in no way could violence and terrorism be justified on theological grounds.
But in Israel, there are those who would like religions to nudge politicians to come up with viable solutions to the conflict in the Middle East. The President of the International Council of Christians and Jews (Iccj), Rabbi David Rosen, has asked the Pope to help leaders of the Jewish and Muslim religions to promote an initiative for peace in the Holy Land. Speaking to a group of Italian journalists, Rosen suggested the Pope convene a meeting between the Holy Land’s religious leaders, in Jerusalem, to pray for peace in the region. “2015 could be a perfect time to do this as it will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of “Nostra Aetate”, the Second Vatican Council declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-<wbr></wbr>Christian Religions”. The Rabbi said an initiative like this was important as it would “boost political efforts to resolve conflicts in the region.”